“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Ephesians 4:16 NLT
“For His “body” has been formed in His image and is closely joined together and constantly connected as one. And every member has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love.”
Ephesians 4:16 TPT
Paul continues with his analogy of a human body, using it to demonstrate how a spiritual body is supposed to work. It’s an analogy that is easy to follow because we are each intimately acquainted with our own bodies. Just looking at our hands, we see the various component parts all joined together, the fingers and joints, the skin, the tendons, the nails, each having a function as God designed them. We also know that when our hands don’t work properly, perhaps through diseases such as arthritis, or after an injury, all our whole bodily functions can be impacted. One of the amazing things about our human bodies is their ability, at least to a certain extent, to repair themselves. So if we cut a finger, it will heal itself after a few days.
Paul used this analogy to describe how our church bodies should function. A church consists of people. Different ages. Men and women, boys and girls. Different gifts and abilities. So we might have medical professionals, carpenters and others who work with their hands, office workers, retirees, stay-at-home mums, and so on. And in Paul’s analogy, each part of the church, the “body”, helps other parts of the body to function well. Helping it to grow, “so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love”. And then the analogy continues because this body connects with other bodies around them, becoming the Bride of Christ, the Church.
But – there’s always a “but” – what about churches that only have a handful of members? Or what about Christians who are not part of a church? I believe we have to face the reality that many churches are not functioning as they should. Some churches have just a few elderly people, congregations getting smaller every year as individual members die. And I know several Christians who have become disillusioned with their local church and who have left, cutting themselves off from the life that comes from being a part of a church. And not just for them – leaving a church might mean that those left behind are deprived of a “gift”, making the growth of the church that bit more difficult. Sadly for them, Christians who are not plugged into a church tend to wither and die spiritually, abandoning their faith. And even more sadly, churches have become places shunned by people in our societies; just a place to visit on the occasion of weddings or funerals, or perhaps when there is a special service such as at Christmas. A place of no relevance, though, in their day to day lives.
So how does all this impact the Christian pilgrim, on his or her journey. Straight away, we have to realise that we are not the only ones on our spiritual journeys through life. We must find, and become part of, a fellowship of believers, fellow pilgrims like us. This is the place designed for Christians, where we can grow in our faith and function as we should. I can find no other way in the Bible. And we pilgrims march on together, stronger in our faith because of our love for each other.
In Revelation 19 we read about the Bride, the church, making herself ready for being joined in marriage to Jesus. A lovely picture of the perfect marriage. One day we will all be together in His presence. But also we will all have to individually stand before God to give an account of our lives. In our churches we can help each other. We grow together in love, just as God designed. But always remembering that we have a loving Heavenly Father, who cares for us, loves us and desires our highest good. We won’t find the perfect church, but we will find a place where “we are built up and made perfect in love”. Just as God designed.